Pediatric Disorders of Gait and Movement
Disorders of gait and movement impact a person’s ability to get around effectively.
Disorders of gait and movement are fairly common among adults, though they can impact children, too. There are four neurological components to maintaining one’s balance and gait. Someone with a disorder of gait or movement has a problem with one or more of these neurological components:
- Inner ears (vestibular system) – The vestibular system provides balance, or equilibrium. When there is a problem in the inner ears, a person may experience vertigo (feeling that the room is spinning).
- Vision – If a person cannot clearly see what is ahead when walking due to vision problems, they will likely have problems with gait and movement at some point.
- Brain – The frontal lobes, basal ganglia and cerebellum of the brain provides the motor program for walking and coordination. These important areas of the brain work together to help a person create the proper stride length, stance, posture, arm swing, and gait speed while walking.
- Peripheral nerves, muscles and spinal cord – The peripheral nerves control the limbs (arms and legs), giving people the strength and sensation to effectively walk.
The most common neurological causes of gait and movement disorders (in order of most to least frequent) include:
- Sensory ataxia (loss of coordination) due to peripheral neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nerves that control the limbs)
- Parkinson’s disease and related conditions
- Frontal gait disorder (brain condition that prevents a person from initiating the activity of walking)
- Cerebellar ataxia (area of the brain responsible for gait and muscle coordination becomes inflamed)
- Cautious gait
- Nerve or muscle disease
- Spasticity (stiffness or tightness of muscles) after a stroke or due to multiple sclerosis (MS) or spinal cord disease
- Vestibular disease (inner ear dysfunction affecting equilibrium)
Specific symptoms that fall under disorders of gait and movement include:
- Freezing while moving
- Frequent falls
- Staggering (ataxia)